3 days in Athens before you catch the ferry

What not to miss!

Athens is not the typical vacation destination. There I said it! But the Greek capital is so much more than that. It’s a metropolitan city, perfect for lively city breaks year-round!

So, next time you’re flying into Athens to catch a ferry to the Greek islands, take a look around. From ancient ruins and amazing museums to a vibrant nightlife and contemporary cultural production, you can spend 3 amazing days in Athens!

Read Ferryhopper’s 3-day itinerary for Athens and start planning!

Old houses in Plaka, Athens under the Acropolis

The colorful neighborhood of Plaka under the Acropolis

What to see in Athens in 3 days

If you’re wondering what to do in Athens, Greece in 3 days, you’re in luck! We have prepared the ultimate guide to seeing Athens in just a few days! Get ready to go on and off the beaten track, explore the city center and the historical monuments, discover the Athenian riviera and experience the local lifestyle!

Here’s what to do in Athens for 3 days:

Day 1 in Athens

Your first day in Athens should start with a bang! It’s trip back in time...time! Your morning itinerary includes a visit to the Ancient Agora and the Roman Forum in the areas of Thissio and Plaka downtown. 

Walk around the cute neighborhoods, have a look at the shops and cute cafes, enjoy some Greek coffee under the bougainvillea trees and enter the magnificent archaeological sites. The Ancient Agora of Athens dates back to 3,500 BCE and includes impressive monuments, such as the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the most well-preserved in the world!

Next stop is the Roman Forum, right next to the agora. The Roman Forum (also known as the Market of Caesar and Augustus) was the commercial center of Athens during the Roman period. One of the most important landmarks of the market is the Tower of the Winds, said to be the world’s first meteorological station!

The gardens of the Ancient Agora of Athens

The Ancient Agora of Athens

After a first glimpse of Ancient Athens, it’s time for the highlight! Make your way to the top of the sacred Rock of the Acropolis and visit the Parthenon. It needs no introduction, but let us just say this is the most important building of Classical Greece, a must during your 3 days in Athens.

So, marvel at the view from the rock, take plenty of pictures and don’t forget to also pay a visit to the Acropolis Museum just below the rock. 

The road leading to the museum is one of the most beautiful in the world! Stretching from Filopappou Hill all the way to the Acropolis Museum, Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street is home to street performers, neoclassical buildings, street vendors and ancient ruins.

After you’ve had some time to rest and grab a bite at the hip neighborhood of Koukaki, you can keep exploring the hills surrounding the historic center of Athens. Many locals and visitors head up to Pnyka, Filopappou or the National Observatory of Athens to take in the views!

And now time for nightlife! We recommend you visit the neighborhoods of Kypseli, Metaxourgeio or Petralona for food and drinks. 

Kypseli is one of the up-and-coming areas of Athens. There are alternative bars, traditional food places and a vibrant market. As for Metaxourgeio and Petralona, they are two of the favorite neighborhoods among locals. If you’re after affordable drinks and dishes and a true feeling of local life, this is the place for you!

Tip: for innovative Greek cuisine, we recommend Laika Bar-Resto and Seychelles. And if you want to dine at a Michelin-star restaurant, CTC is one of the best in Athens.

The Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis Rock dressed in sunset colors

Day 2 in Athens

Alright, so this day 2 of your 3 days in Athens. If your first day in the Greek capital started off with a bang, this one starts off with a splash! It’s time to discover the Athenian riviera

Start early in the morning and head to Sounio, one of the most important areas of Ancient Greece. This is where you’ll find the majestic Temple of Poseidon, facing the Aegean Sea. Dressed in ample light and surrounded by lush vegetation, the temple is truly a sight to behold.

But the coast of Athens is not just monuments. As a matter of fact, it’s more about luxury, culture and fun! We recommend you go to Varkiza for swimming in secluded coves, visit Kavouri for fine-dining and cocktails, head to Faliro to walk along the promenade and discover the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center in Kallithea. Take your pick!

The Temple of Poseidon in Sounio, Athens

The Temple of Poseidon facing the Saronic Gulf

If you’re back in Athens city center by late afternoon, there are more things to see and do! Your 3 perfect days in Athens continue with a visit to some of the city’s best museums: the National Gallery of Athens or the Byzantine and Christian Museum.

Enjoy the exhibits, learn more about traditional and contemporary art production, and make your way up to Lycabettus Hill to catch the sunset views. You can bring your own drink (red wine from Nemea) and snacks (graviera cheese and rusks from Crete) for a calm night out on the hill or head to the bars and restaurants of Kolonaki nearby.

Tip: Prasini Tenta on the Lycabettus Hill has one of the best terrace bars in Athens!

Night view of Athens from the Lycabettus Hill

View to the city of Athens from Lycabettus Hill

Day 3 in Athens

Your third day in Athens is all about mingling with locals and sweating it out (unless it is really really cold, which is not the norm in Athens)! So, get ready to walk around the city center some more and visit popular meeting spots and some more important Athenian attractions.

Start from Syntagma Square, one of the most central squares in the capital city, where the Greek Parliament is located. Right next to the Parliament, you can find the National Garden of Athens, where locals go with their kids and dogs for weekend and afternoon walks.

Then, make your way to the Athenian Trilogy on Panepistimiou Street. The three neighboring buildings (Academy, University and Library) are among the most beautiful in the Greek capital. After you’ve taken enough photos there, make your way up to the "underground" neighborhood of Exarcheia for food! Visit Achilleas for souvlaki and Kimatothrafstis for traditional Greek recipes. 

With a happy stomach, make your way to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens or head to Kallimarmaro on the opposite side of the city center. Both sites are of great cultural importance, so if we were you, we would do both to be honest!

Tip: artistic bar KAIN in Pangrati is one of the best spots for drinks in Athens.

The outdoor area of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The beautiful building of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Day 3 and 1/2 in Athens

Making your way to the port of Piraeus on the following day? Why not stop by the vibrant neighborhoods of Piraeus for some last-minute experiences? 

If you have some time to kill, it’s a great idea to visit Kastella and enjoy the views to the sea. Also, the area of Mikrolimano is home to some of the best fish restaurants in Greece. Varoulko Seaside Restaurant is hands-down our favorite.

In case you’re catching the ferry from Lavrio, we recommend paying a visit to the Mineralogical Museum of Lavrion. For passengers taking the ferry from Rafina, the best thing to do before boarding is enjoy a coffee at the esplanade cafes.

Tips for your 3-day trip in Athens

Here are 10 useful tips for your stay in Athens:

  1. Most bars and restaurants in Athens stay open until well after midnight year-round. This means you’ll have no problem finding a souvlaki or getting a drink even at 2am.
  2. There are 3 ports in Athens: Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio. You can catch a ferry daily to all popular islands of the Aegean Sea or even go on a day trip to the islands of the Saronic Gulf, such as Hydra and Aegina.
  3. The best way to get around Athens is by metro. There are 3 metro lines connecting all popular spots in the city center with the suburbs, while metro line 3 (blue line) connects directly the airport with the port of Piraeus. You can get the Athens 3-day tourist ticket for cheaper transportation.
  4. If you’re visiting Athens during the summer, it’s better to walk up the Acropolis Hill early in the morning to avoid the heat.
  5. If you’re into literature, you should visit the bookshops of Exarcheia for underground authors and the antique shops of Monastiraki for cheap, second-hand books.
  6. There are 2 mountains close to Athens that are perfect for hiking: Ymittos and Penteli. 
  7. The closest beaches to Athens are Kalamaki, Glyfada and Vouliagmeni in the southern suburbs, as well as Nea Makri and Rafina on the east coast.
  8. More great attractions to visit if you're spending more then 3 days in Athens are: the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Odeon of Herodus Atticus, the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Strefi Hill, the Museum Ship Averof, the Diomidous Botanical Garden, the spice shops of Evripidou Street, and the Lake of Vouliagmeni.
  9. Athens is not the best destination when it comes to getting around for people with disabilities. Here you can find useful information on accessible routes.
  10. Wondering if 3 days in Athens is too much? Definitely not! Athens is a year-round destination with much to see and do. A 3-day itinerary is just a nice meet and greet.

Yachts at the harbor of Mikrolimano near Piraeus

The quaint harbor of Mikrolimano in Piraeus

So, next time you visit the Greek islands, plan a 3-day stop in Athens to enjoy its ancient roots, cosmopolitan feeling, extraordinary food scene and many museums! With so many cheap ferry routes from/to Athens throughout the year, you have no excuses. None. Zilch.

Tip: book your ferry to the Greek islands now!